There are four main characters in Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë with another 6 minor characters and a few supporting characters.
The story revolves around Heathcliff, an orphan adopted into a rich family whose bitterness and jealousy ruins his own life and the life of everyone around him as he ages into an old man.
Catherine Earnshaw is his beloved, the first one in the house to befriend him, their childish friendship develops into love. Catherine, a selfish woman, chooses to marry for status rather than love, eventually destroying both men that care about her.
Edgar Linton is the man Catherine chooses to marry. From a good family, he is well polished and sensitive, but a weak man whose life is dominated initially by Catherine and later by Heathcliff.
Nelly Dean is the one who narrates the family’s story. A servant who has been by the family for three generations and has taken care of many of its younger members. She is kind and caring but has her own biases.
Lets get into the Wuthering Heights characters analysis!
The Main Characters in Wuthering Heights
The story revolves around Heathcliff, an orphan brought to live at Wuthering heights in his youth by Mr. Earnshaw. Though Mr. Earnshaw loves Heathcliff like a son, Heathcliff develops complicated relationships with his adopted brother and sister. Hindley Earnshaw, Mr. Earnshaw’s biological son resents having a wild stranger brought into the family. Catherine Earnshaw becomes a close friend to young Heathcliff, and she eventually becomes a lifelong love and obsession for Heathcliff.
Heathcliff is a wild and rough child but that is why Mr. Earnshaw and Catherine are fond of him. Catherine is wild and unruly herself and finds a partner in her adventures in Heathcliff. When Mr. Earnshaw dies, Hindley returns from college and essentially treats Heathcliff as a servant, fuelling the young man’s rage and thirst for vengeance. Heathcliff leaves in a fury when he overhears Catherine saying that she is going to marry Edgar Linton, even though she loves Heathcliff because marrying Heathcliff would degrade her.
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Heathcliff returns years later, a dashing, polished, well-groomed, rich man. His only goal seems to be to take revenge on all those who hurt him in his youth. Superficially charming, and a master of manipulation, he manages to seduce Edgar Linton’s sister, and take advantage of Hindley’s alcoholism, gambling with him and eventually seizing control of Wuthering Heights.
Heathcliff’s machinations cause the death of Catherine, and he continues to be a cruel tyrant, eventually seizing control of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, but alienating and manipulating everyone around him. He dies as an old man, haunted by memories of Catherine, successful in his revenge, but bitter, angry, mean, and unhappy.
Catherine Earnshaw Linton
Catherine Earnshaw is the daughter of Mr. Earnshaw and the woman that drives much of the first two parts of the story. As a child, she is wild and unruly, and though she initially despises the young orphan Heathcliff, they eventually became best friends. As they grow older, this friendship transforms into love, but Catherine is torn between two sides of her identity. She eventually grows to understand her position and status in life and becomes more of a lady. She is still willful, and at times cruel, but she becomes adept at hiding the different sides of her nature from people.
She marries Edgar Linton even though she is in love with Heathcliff because marrying Heathcliff would lower her status in society. She is free-spirited and beautiful, but she is also arrogant and selfish. She is spoiled, initially by her father, and then by Edgar Linton, and prone to throwing tantrums when she doesn’t get her way. She makes both of the men in her life miserable but fails to understand that she is at fault at all. She dies in poor health while giving birth to her daughter Cathy.
Edgar Linton along with his sister Isabella grow up in Thrushcross Grange. A well-mannered, virtuous boy, he was raised to be a gentleman. He is spoiled as a child and is cowardly and sensitive. He is the perfect foil for Heathcliff’s wild and aggressive nature. Catherine eventually chooses to marry Edgar, even though she finds his sensitivity unattractive. Edgar’s weakness let him be dominated by Catherine, a possible reason why she enjoyed being around him, considering she enjoyed getting her way.
After Catherine’s death, Edgar raises their daughter Cathy and is a kind and loving father. Even later in life, he is unable to stop Heathcliff’s machinations though, and when he dies, Thrushcross Grange becomes part of Heathcliff’s properties.
Nelly Dean narrates the history of Wuthering Heights to Lockwood. She is a caretaker who has been with the family since before Heathcliff was brought to Wuthering Heights as a child. She is a genuinely affectionate and caring person, who tries her best to protect the various members of the family. She takes care of Catherine all her life till her death out of loyalty, despite not agreeing with a lot of her decisions, and continues taking care of her daughter Cathy. In between, she briefly took care of Hareton, Hindley’s son. She may not always make the best decisions, but she is always driven by affection, care, and a sense of loyalty.
Minor Wuthering Heights Characters
Lockwood is a visitor from London who narrates the story around Nelly’s narration. He is a snobbish man who believes himself to be superior to the country folk around him. As a narrator, he comes to conclusions that do not necessarily match the events told to him, showing his own biases and coming across as an unreliable narrator. He does not change significantly through the story, rather serves as an outsider that allows the reader to know more about the story of the families.
Hindley Earnshaw is the brother of Catherine Earnshaw and young tormentor of Heathcliff. Hindley looks down on Heathcliff for his rudeness and low social status and treats him poorly as a result. His father, Mr. Earnshaw clearly loves Heathcliff, further pushing a wedge between the two boys. After Mr. Earnshaw’s death, Hindley becomes a tyrant, exacting revenge on Heathcliff by essentially reducing him to a servant.
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After the death of his wife Frances during childbirth, he develops alcoholism and starts treating his son Hareton terribly. He falls further into despair as Heathcliff returns a successful man. Heathcliff takes revenge on Hindley by taking advantage of his alcoholism and gambling, eventually forcing the man into debt and taking control of Wuthering heights. After a physical fight that Hindley loses, he locks himself in his room and drinks himself to death.
Hareton Earnshaw is the son of Hindley Earnshaw and Frances Earnshaw. His mother dies giving birth to him, causing his father to resent him. Though a happy baby, he is mistreated by his father, and then by Heathcliff, who takes possession of him after Hindley’s death. Heathcliff treats Hareton like a servant, the same way his father Hindley had treated Heathcliff. Hareton grows up ill-mannered, rude, and uneducated. Unaware of the role Heathcliff played in his father’s life, he looks up to and is fiercely loyal to Heathcliff. Cathy, Catherine and Edgar’s daughter, treats him poorly but eventually teaches him how to read. The two fall in love, bringing generations of bad blood to an end.
Isabella Linton Heathcliff
Isabella Linton is Edgar Linton’s sister. She grew up at Thrushcross Grange with her brother, but while he was a kind, sensitive, if weak boy, she is portrayed as largely superficial and somewhat spoiled. She falls in love with Heathcliff when he returns, but mostly because she sees him as a romantic figure from a novel. She leaves her family to be with him against their wishes and quickly realizes that she’s made a mistake when Heathcliff reveals his true cruel and sadistic character. She eventually flees to London where she gives birth to her son, Linton Heathcliff.
Catherine “Cathy” Linton
Cathy grows up under the care of her father Edgar and the caring Nelly. She is spirited like her mother but is a caring and sweet girl. As a young teenager she starts defying her father’s wishes and spends time with Linton Heathcliff, her cousin, and Heathcliff and Isabella Linton’s son. Heathcliff, still not done with his revenge plans, manipulates them so that they become friends and makes Linton propose to her. Cathy, unaware that Linton is just following orders, agrees to marry him. Linton dies soon afterward, and Heathcliff’s mistreatment of her changes her from a sweet, caring girl into a cold, bitter woman. Her friendship and eventual relationship with Hareton bring the story full circle. The kind-hearted daughter of Catherine, and the mistreated Hareton, son of the man who mistreated Heathcliff, fall in love and care about each other the way Heathcliff and Catherine should have.
Linton Heathcliff is the son of Heathcliff and Isabella Linton. Born away from his father in London, he comes to live with Heathcliff at Wuthering Heights after the death of his mother. He is a weak and frail boy, his health made even worse by Heathcliff’s trademark mistreatment of everyone around him. His father uses him as a tool to get possession of Thrushcross Grange by orchestrating a secret affair between him and Cathy Linton. Linton is a weak and selfish person and does what his father asks. He dies soon after his marriage to Cathy.
The father of Hindley and Catherine, Mr. Earnshaw is a kindhearted man who adopts Heathcliff and brings him into the family. It can be assumed that he did this without the knowledge of his wife, showing the power of men in family matters at the time. He ends up loving Heathcliff but is manipulated by him and Joseph before his death.
Mrs. Earnshaw is Hindley and Catherine’s mother. She dies soon after Heathcliff arrives to live at Wuthering Heights. She is not mentioned much by her children, but we can assume that she was a bit of a snob since she apparently did not like a poor orphan boy (Heathcliff) living in her house.
Joseph is the extremely religious servant at Wuthering Heights who has been around as long as Nelly. He Influences Mr. Earnshaw to be cruel to his children and then later influencs Hindley the same way. Towards the end of the story, he is a bitter, mean, and twisted man.
Hindley returns from his studies with his wife Frances Earnshaw, She is described as beautiful but silly. She is a snob as well, disliking Heathcliff from the very beginning. Hindley truly loves her though as is evident by his emotional collapse when she dies giving birth to Hareton.
Edgar and Isabella’s father, who raises them to be well mannered young people as is expected of members of their status in society.
Edgar and Isabella’s mother who dislikes young Heathcliff. She is the one who teaches young Catherine how to behave like a lady.
To Sum Up
Wuthering Heights is a story that spans several generations and has many interconnected characters. Each character is a foil to others, and the relationships and similarities between parents and children are fascinating. The family trees can get complicated and by modern standards, a little incestuous, but it reflects the reality of the time and place where the book was written and based. Take a look at a Wuthering Heights characters map to see the familial relationship between characters.
The story is almost entirely character-driven and is, therefore, a great book to analyze characters and the relationships between them. If you need any help to understand the complexity of the main characters or the differences and similarities between characters, don’t hesitate to reach out to the experts at studyfy. They have the experience to help you with essay editing, homework, and whatever else you need!